Numerous speakers yesterday stressed that much has changed over the academy’s 250 years.
The Dummer Charity School became Dummer Academy, which became Governor Dummer Academy, which eventually transitioned to The Governor’s Academy in recent years.
As was the custom, the early curriculum focused primarily on the study of scripture, basic math and English and instruction in Latin, Greek and the classics.
The curriculum broadened over time as the requirements of college admission expanded. Although the academy initially operated in the one-room schoolhouse that was the focus of the morning’s welcoming ceremony, administrators had access to the grand mansion of the late governor.
That historic building remains a central fixture on the campus as the headmaster’s residence.
Over time, other structures have been built and the faculty and curriculum expanded so that by the time of the school’s centennial in 1863, the Dummer Academy had grown into a well-known, 19th century prep school that catered mostly to children from affluent families.
By the turn of the 20th century, however, the school had fallen on hard times, with enrollment and income down as the school struggled under the shadow of other New England prep schools that had grown to become more prestigious.
When Charles Ingham became headmaster in 1908, he launched an effort to revive the academy.
As a result, Dummer Academy became stabilized, and began to again thrive as a prep school that sent close to a third of its graduates to Ivy League colleges during that period. Upon Ingham’s retirement in 1930, Edward “Ted” Eames became headmaster, a post he held for 30 years.
Early in Eames’ tenure, the name of the school was changed to Governor Dummer Academy, a title it retained for decades.
But that name changed, too. Local observers of education might remember the debate when school leaders were considering dropping the Dummer from the name, with some complaining that it was dangerously close to the term “dumber.” It was said that students in distant locales were not attracted to this image.